Nov. 7, 2018 - Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on the 2018 Election Results

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell
November 7, 2018

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on the 2018 Election Results


Good morning everyone. I was, had one of the cable networks on this morning, and they said this is probably a rare opportunity to see McConnell smile.

It is indeed a good morning for Senate Republicans.

Over the course of the last, well first, last night and this morning I talked to Leader Pelosi. We discussed ways we might be able to find a way forward. She and I actually have had some, have had an opportunity to work together for a number of years, when we were both on the Appropriations Committee. She had the Foreign Operations Subcommittee and so did I. And so we’re not unfamiliar with each other, and we’ll probably have a lot more dealings with each other in the future.

In looking at the race, I want to thank the president. He was extremely helpful to us in states where he is in excellent shape. He worked very hard, drew large crowd, and I think it clearly had a positive impact on the outcome.

So with that let me just throw it open and see what you’d like to talk about.  Yes, ma'am.

Leader McConnell do you agree with the president's campaign rhetoric that the caravan is an invasion and birthright citizenship should be dealt with at the presidential level?

McConnell: Yeah, I’ll be happy to give you my own views on whatever you would like to talk about, but I generally don’t do running commentary on the president's observations out on the campaign trail.

Okay, can you give me your views on those two issues, is the caravan an invasion...?

It is an interesting legal question, that ultimately I assume would be solved in the courts.

The president said on the White House driveway last week that he would be willing to work with and compromise with Nancy Pelosi if she becomes the House leader. What do you believe are now the top legislative priorities with the divided rule?

McConnell: Well first we have to finish this session, and we have a number of items extant. We have to finish the Farm Bill, we have to finish funding the government. The one issue that Leader Pelosi and I discussed this morning is, where there could be a possible bipartisan agreement would be something on infrastructure. There’ll be a lot of other things.

I'm not putting you all down but when we do things together, it almost never makes news. Even in this current situation, where we have Republicans in control of all three branches, I have a long list here of things we did on bipartisan basis from water infrastructure, the best appropriations process in 20 years, airport infrastructure, FDA authorization, and on and on and on.

I mean there are plenty of things that we work together on, and I always have to tell constituents who think we all hate each other that the Senate is a pretty collegial place, and even though we had obviously big differences over things like taxes and judges, there were plenty of other things we did together, and there is no reason that would stop simply because the House now becomes Democratic.

...infrastructure, what big issues are there...?

McConnell: Well we’ll see. That will all be discussed.

Will you insist on getting $5 billion for the president’s border wall in this upcoming spending bill?

McConnell: Well we’ll certainly going to try to help the president achieve what he’d like to do with regard to the wall and border security. And that will have to be done on some kind of bipartisan discussion.

Any observations on the Kavanaugh effect?

McConnell: Very helpful. Yeah, Ithink, Republican sort of core voters in the states that were critical to us were highly offended by the questioning of the presumption of innocence and the tactics. And I think it was like an adrenaline shot. We were worried about lack of intensity on our side, and I think the Kavanaugh fight certainly provided that and was extremely helpful. It’s noteworthy that the one Democrat in a red state who survived voted for Kavanaugh. Joe Manchin.

You credited the president for his work on the Democrats in red states, but you obviously lost the House last night too.  So I'm wondering what kind of impact do you think the president's rhetoric in the last couple weeks having on your party particulary with women voters and suburban voters in some of those key races?

McConnell: I”m going to try not to have us waste our time on sort of routine questions about what the president may say at any given moment. I’m here to talk about the Senate. We had a very good day. I’m proud of what has happened. The president was very helpful to us.

Leader McConnell if you look at exit polls, one of the most important issues to voters was health care. Did you take away from that the message that any effort to repeal ACA at this point is dead?

McConnell: Well I think it’s pretty obvious the Democratic House is not going to be interested in that. There are serious problems with Obamacare, serious problems that need to get fixed. They raised the phony issue of whether or not we were for or against pre-existing conditions. And I
suspect it may have worked some places. Fortunately in our races, even though they tried to define health care on that issue, I think all of our candidates who subsequently won were able to make clear to the voters that everybody we knew was in favor of covering pre-existing
conditions, including the candidates like Hawley and Braun and others. So the rhetoric doesn’t solve the problem, and there are serious problems with Obamacare. And I think we’re going to have to now obviously  try to address it on bipartisan basis.

Both Leader Pelosi and the president talked about fighting high prescription drug prices. Do you think that that’s something the Senate could work with Pelosi on?

McConnell: Yeah, I cannot imagine that that won’t be on the agenda.

Is there anything that the Senate Republicans could or would do to help President Trump in the event that Democrats in the House attempt to seize his tax returns?

McConnell: I'm sorry I’m having a hard time hearing you.

What would Senate Republicans do in the event that the House Democrats tried to obtain President Trump's tax records?

McConnell: The whole  issue of presidential harassment is interesting. I remember when we tried it in the late 1990's. We impeached President Clinton. His numbers went up and ours went down, and we underperformed in the next election. So the Democrats in the House will have to decide
just how much presidential harassment they think is good strategy. I am not so sure it will work for them.

To go back to that. Are you recommending that for House Democrats that the oversight they have said that they’re going do might backfire on them?

McConnell: They’re not interested in my recommendations. All I’m doing is making a historical observation. The business of presidential harassment, which we were deeply engaged in in the 90's, improved the president's approval rating and tanked ours. That’s my observation. That might not be a smart strategy, but it’s up to them to decide how they want to handle that.

Is there anything you’re going be doing in the coming months to increase the number of women who are being recruited on the Republican side to run for office?

McConnell: It has been a frustration. I think I’ve mentioned to you before, that we’ve had plenty of women candidates; a lot of them have not won. Marsha Blackburn won. We’re hopeful that Martha McSally will win. I’m going to be trying to convince one of our women, for example, to go on
the Judiciary Committee, something I’ve tried and failed in the last couple congresses. Yeah, I mean we need to do a better job of recruiting women candidates and getting them elected. Hopefully we will have two new women Republican senators here shortly.

Talking about the House oversight that is likely to come, the president tweeted this morning saying that if the House continues with their investigations, that we will likewise be forced to consider investigating them for all the leaks of classified information and much else at the Senate level. Two can play at that game. Can you respond to that? What do you think about that?

McConnell: Well I’d like to focus on finishing up this session. We’ve go work left to do and we will see what happens next year.

Have you had discussions with the president about any that? I know you want avoid that right now but --

McConnell: Yeah.

On this session, can you rule out a government shutdown?

McConnell: Hopefully, we need to work this out. We had the most successful appropriations process already in 20 years. 75% of the government got funded before the end of September. And we all know we need to work together here toward the end, to finish that up. And we’re going to do
the best we can to try to achieve the president's priorities. And hopefully we will not be headed down that path.

What do you think of doing a DACA fix, either lame-duck or next year?

McConnell: Oh my goodness. I can’t imagine with all the things we have to do here to wrap up this congress, that we would revisit immigration, but who knows?

What about next year?

McConnell: It is on the agenda every year because we have serious immigration issues. I would remind all of you all, the Democrats had total control of the government in 2009 and 2010 and never dealt with the immigration issue. So it seems that no matter who is up or down, we have not been able to come to some kind of conclusion about what to do on immigration. The one thing I thought we agreed on was this border security issue. Most Democrats voted for it 10 years ago. But we’ve had a challenge on that as well, as evidenced by the president's desire to build a (the?) wall and the reluctance on the other side to support it. So, I can’t imagine we’ll do anything beyond
trying to deal with this funding issue on the wall here at the end of the session.

If I might just to follow up on that. The president made a real issue out of it going in the midterms about the migrant caravan, and the crisis that it was causing at the border. Would you want to put immigration at the top of the list and do you agree with the characterization the president used that it was a crisis from this migrant caravan that’s coming?

McConnell: Well that’s sort of an executive branch issue about, what, you know how to deploy security forces to deal with that. I'm sure the president will handle it skillfully.

...crisis, this migrant caravan?

McConnell: It is not a legislative issue. it is a question of how you want to deal with security at the border. The president has wide latitude to do that and he is taking advantage of the opportunity he has.

If Democrats do engage in aggressive oversight of the Trump administration, how would that impede your ability to work on bipartisan fashion with Nancy Pelosi?

McConnell: I'm having a hard time hearing you.

If Democrats do engage in the House  in aggressive oversight of the Trump administration, would that impede at all your ability to work with a possible Speaker Pelosi on things like infrastructure?

McConnell: No, I do not think so.


Senator, on health care, if the judge in Texas rules to strike down all or part of Obamacare, how do you think Senate Republicans will respond to that?

McConnell: Look. the health care system is still a pretty big mess. It is obviously now going to have to be addressed on bipartisan basis because the Democrats will control the House. I don't think anybody is satisfied with status quo. The American people has given us a divided government —which they have given us most of the time since World War II; they seem to like divided government. And I think the message is figure out what you can do together and do it. And I think health care is still a crisis and needs to be fixed.

If House Dems push to expand Russia probes, do you think this is an effort to undermine the president and is there a potential to get out in front of the special counsel on this?

McConnell: Look on the Senate side, the Senate Intelligence Committee has been looking
at that issue, and we expect them to report at some time, at some point in the future. And so far, they have operated on pretty bipartisan basis, Senator Burr and Senator Warner. I look forward to hearing what they have to say.

Have you spoken to Governor Scott or Congresswoman McSally about their races
and how do you feel about their states?

McConnell: Well Gov. Scott and I traded calls last night. So I have not connected yet; I’m going to be talking to him shortly. I have not spoken to Martha McSally, although we traded calls too. They were pretty late at night. I decided to go to bed and talk to her this morning.

You’re going to have an extra cushion in the Senate, with extra seats on the Republican side. What will that enable you to do? Ease judicial nominations? What’s the practical effect of all this?

McConnell; Well you know what my top priority is. I’ve made it clear, it’s the judiciary: the two Supreme Court appointments, the 29 circuit judges, the 84 overall number of judges. And we're not through doing those this year. The president has done an excellent job of picking young men and
women who believe the job of a judge is to follow the law. And we intend to keep confirming, as many as we possibly can for as long as we are in a position to do it. It will still be my top priority in setting the agenda here in the Senate, next congress as well.

Will you revisit earmarks in the new congress. A lot was made about your comments about entitlements in the last couple weeks.  Are entitlements an option?

McConnell: The Democrats have made it perfectly clear they’re not interested in dealing with entitlements, and they are in a position to say no, and so I do not think that will be on the agenda.

Earmarks, sir?

McConnell: I have no idea. I haven’t really thought about that. We have a conference rule related to earmarks on the Senate side. I can’t imagine that’s going to change.

Will a 10% middle-class tax-cut be on your agenda next congress?

McConnell: Well, any effort on the tax side, would clearly have to be negotiated now on bipartisan basis. We will just  have to see. I assume Nancy will be Speaker. We will see what they want to do in this area. We’d have to do it together. We wouldn’t have the possibility of doing it on party-line basis like we did in this congress.

On some of the changes in the administration, in the cabinet, that are expected, can you just  give your view of what the confirmation battleground might look like? I mean are you confident that you could, that there was a vacancy let’s say at the Department of Justice, to
easily do that? Would it eat up valuable time?

McConnell: Well I think we’ll probably have more time for nominations in the next congress then we have had in this one, because he areas of legislative agreement will be more limited, obviously, between a Democratic House and a Republican Senate. I do not think we will have trouble finding time to do nominations. How controversial they are depends on who it is. The president makes that decision and we have to react. He has signaled that there are likely to be a number of changes.
We will process them.

...Sessions being replaced...?

McConnell: It is not up to me [inaud.] to tell the president who to put in the cabinet. They serve at his pleasure, and If he makes changes, we will be dealing with whoever is sent up.

Presidential election...starting soon. Some Democrats are probably going to be announcing or testing the waters in the next couple months as far as 2020... 

McConnell: Really.  [laughter]

What impact do you believe that will that have and also the president’s re-election?

McConnell: Well it’s going be fun to watch the Democratic presidential aspirants, of which we have a number in the Senate. Chuck may have attendance problems from time to time, but it’ll be interesting to watch.

Do you plan on running for reelection yourself?

McConnell: I do.

Are you confident President Trump will support your reelection?

McConnell: I wouldn’t be surprised.

Anyone else? Okay, well thanks a lot, everybody.